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The Winchester Model 1887 and Winchester Model 1901 were lever-action shotguns originally designed by famed American gun designer John Browning and produced by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Model 1887 with wooden stock

Overview[]

The Model 1887 was the first truly successful repeating shotgun. Its lever-action design was chosen at the behest of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, best known at the time as manufacturers of lever-action firearms such as the Winchester model 1873. Designer John Browning suggested that a pump-action would be much more appropriate for a repeating shotgun, but Winchester management's position was that, at the time, the company was known as a "lever-action firearm company", and felt that their new shotgun must also be a lever-action for reasons of brand recognition. Browning responded by designing a breech-loading, rolling block lever-action. To Winchester's credit, however, they later introduced a Browning designed pump-action shotgun known as the Model 1893 (an early production version of the model 1897), after the introduction of smokeless powder.

Shotgun shells at the time used black powder as a propellant, and so the Model 1887 shotgun was designed and chambered for less powerful black powder 12-gauge shotshells, with a 10-gauge chambering being offered soon afterwards. It was soon realized that the action on the M1887 was not strong enough to handle early smokeless powder shotshells, and so a redesign resulted in the stronger Winchester Model 1901 10-gauge only. No 12-gauge chambering was offered, as Winchester did not want the Model 1901 to compete with their successful 12-gauge Model 1897 pump-action shotgun.

Although a technically sound gun design, the market for lever-action shotguns waned considerably, as John Browning had predicted, after the introduction of the Winchester 1897 and other contemporary pump-action shotguns; Model 1887 production totaled 64,855 units between 1887 and 1901, with 79,455 Model 1901 shotguns being manufactured before it was discontinued in 1920.

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